Archive for January, 2010

something in the water (UPDATE)

Posted in daily musings, rants on January 27, 2010 by wfon

Well score one for common sense! The Menifee Union School District decided to return Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary to the 4th and 5th grade classrooms at Oak Meadows Elementary School (LA TIMES STORY HERE) after the principal there, responding to a complaint from a parent, removed the tome because an entry defined the term ‘oral sex.’ Had this not turned out the way it did this morning, the students in Menifee were surely to have been looking up ‘sodomy’ since that would have been what had just happened to them! It’s a Dictionary, people! – and fortunately the Menifee School District saw through the manufactured moral panic. If only more people would stand up to the bigots, racists, homophobes and knuckledraggers who always manage to get just enough air time to temper our forward progress as an upright and educated majority. The only caveat in this expedition to Absurdia is that parents will decide if they want their children to have access to the Merriam Webster Dictionary or, if viewed as too ‘mature’ for little Suzie and Tanner, will instead have to look up words in the ‘My Pet Goat’ version. Meanwhile, little Tanner just took little Suzie around the back of the portable to play ‘Mary and Joseph.’

You may ask why I’m so quick to jump on these sorts of stories with such vitriol and condemnation. It stems from my own childhood and experiences with religious zealots of all stripes: they would come up to you in the mall with government conspiracies (corporate branding, literally, and black op helicopters keeping you under control and away from God’s kingdom), or the Christian concert I attended where the singer of a rock band told us we needed to be saved OR ELSE!!!! Then there was the time when the Quakers came round to the Catholic school I was going to (don’t ask me who let them in!) to talk to us about ‘backwards masking’ on rock and roll records. Remember that, anyone? Thank God for CD’s – that was the end of that particular madness. Nonetheless, that night they pointed the crooked finger of judgement at virtually every band I liked: Queen (gay!), KISS (Kids in Satan’s Service), Styx (the river to hell), Ozzy (satanist with a taste for bats, birds and of course the song “Suicide Solution”), The Eagles (‘Hotel California’ and in particular the  line ‘we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969’ which supposedly was a nod to Anton LeVay and the Church of Satan)… the list goes on and on… they didn’t actually spin any records backwards, instead played tape recordings of records being spun backwards – which is about as uncorruptible as a Republican with the hots for boys and/or Argentinians. So, with all that, along with my lifelong indifference to anything church-related, which is I think just a product of having always been a thinker, I find myself in the position of having something to rail against and when stories like this Dictionary banning, or the removal of “Speak” or Tony Alamo, Benny Hinn, the Mormons, Prop. 8… there’s a lot of, pardon the use of such incendiary language, bullshit out there that needs to be exposed and erradicated.

Is it an easy target? Sure. Bill Maher was criticized likewise for his film “Religulous” for going after the soft targets, the ones everyone would agree were kooky. I’m an equal opportunity attacker – the Catholic church (the Big One, the Only One, the one that if it didn’t exist we would never have heard about any of this) has a policy of child abuse dating back to its inception. That needs, like the holocaust (which the church also quietly supported), to never be forgotten. There’s not enough money in the world to buy off that much trouble, try as they might. TV evangelists, evil people like Pat Robertson… big targets, and not particularly soft since they enjoy such support.

At the end of the day, though, I live in a city of 9,000,000 people… there are at least 9,000,000 stories here… when I hear absurd tales of book bannings, church-sponsored protests against the staging of works like “Rent” (the cleaned-up for high school version), gay bashing (literally and figuratively), I know where to look: Encino? No. El Monte? No. Santa Monica? No. Beverly Hills?  No. West Hollywood? As if. Burbank? Surprisingly, no. Where then? Simi, Moorpark, Santa Clarita, Meniffe, Temecula, the High Desert, Orange County, San Diego county… all conservative… all predominantly Christian-identified (American-Christian, mind you… those are the folks who’ve been around about 150 years and who have replaced Jesus’ message of love and compassion with one of ‘take what you can, leave nothing behind’, morally questionable behavior and open hatred.)… mostly white… a world all to itself that, as long as it can rub shoulders with the modern one, can be a danger to it. There is no room here for the Dark Ages, any more than there is room in the world for radical Islam’s desire to turn back the clock and live in caves.

This stuff gets under my skin because I feel a duty to stand forever vigilant and protect our great, modern world, the one we’re building everyday: a world Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of. It’s here but it’s a young child and it needs our protection from the zealots and increasingly irrelevant minority that would have us return to a time in history that is only that – HISTORY. Don’t know the word? Look it up… but ask your parent’s permission first.

something in the water?

Posted in daily musings on January 26, 2010 by wfon

Back in September, I wrote a post about a complaint brought to the Temecula Valley School District by a parent who had a problem with a book available in school libraries entitled “Speak”. The school board, who collectively had not read the book, were going to decide if this cautionary tale of teen alchohol abuse, date rape and peer pressure was too much for the young minds who might turn its pages. ”None of us had read it,” said board member Kristi Rutz-Robbins, who expressed concerns about the book at an August meeting, saying she would not be comfortable with her daughter reading it. Let’s back up: no one had read the book yet they felt justified in deciding whether or not someone else could? Well, I’ve never eaten escargot but I’m sure it’s horrible, so no one should have to endure it! So there! No snails for you!

I’m reminding you of this because today in the LA Times another winning story comes to us from the province of Christian fear and prejudice on the borderland between Riverside and San Diego counties. In the community of Menifee (yes, I know you’ve never heard of it) another outraged parent came forward with a concern about a book. A Young Adult novel with gay themes, you ask? A historical narrative with a Pagan-inspired storyline? The Koran? The Torah? Nah… the evil, bound manuscript was none other than Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary! And its crime? A definition in the book, that of ‘oral sex’ (defined therein as ‘oral stimulation of the genitals’). It defines a word or concept! That’s what dictionaries do. Hello! Now, okay, this Dictionary was found in the 4th and 5th grade reference books, which is arguably not academically collegiate (although in a community like Menifee 4th grade is probably as close as most students will get to college).

Prompted by the parent’s complaint, the principal of Oak Meadows Elementary School removed the books and housed them ‘off location.’ Later when students tried to find the definition of the word ‘cluster-fuck’ they were forced to research it online where they spent the rest of the day looking at internet porn. The Menifee school board weighed in assuring everyone the Dictionary hadn’t been banned, but it was being decided whether or not the words in it were ‘age appropriate.’ Folks, kids (and boys in particular) are going to be kids. My mother, a retired 6th grade teacher, found out very early on that using words such as ‘climax’ in their proper context (i.e. the climax of the story) often elicited knowing giggles from the precious nine and ten-year old infants in the class room. Kids are going to look up the dirty words or phrases because that’s what they do and if the Dictionary is taken away, they’ll find what they’re looking for elsewhere.

I found this interesting tid-bit on the Sigmund, Carl and Alfred blog from a former middle school employee:

“My last few years in the middle school were spent largely chasing kids out of the bathroom of the opposite sex. Blowjobs were all the rage. It was all they could talk about. They even drew pictures and diagrams, of kids ‘doing it,’ or ‘how to do it’ for the uninitiated.Unpopular girls became suddenly popular. Early-developing boys were chased down the halls and solicited. It was sick. A time or two someone was actually caught in the act, but our principal had a hard time believing such things could happen at that age, and we had a really difficult time convincing her that yes, it was happening two or three dozen times a day. Nothing was ever done, because ‘the teacher must have just misinterpreted the situation and assumed the worst.’

Yes, it happened like that over and over. The parents were our worst problem, because they simply refused to believe their innocent child could possibly do that, and they became furious at the implication.
And the middle school kids were giving, and getting, blowjobs all day.”

So, let’s recap: kids look up oral sex in the Dictionary, parent gets upset, principal removes the Dictionary and in the meantime little Suzie is polishing little Tanner’s knob in the boys’ bathroom. Wow, seems like the Dictionary is the least of our worries.

I mean really, where does this conservative madness end? Obviously if a clinical reference book can cause this much trouble, how on earth can the bible still be available, in fact, usually in these circles, held aloft as The Word? What about the violence, death, destruction, sex, bestiality and incest so lovingly catalogued in those pages. I’m somewhere between blushing and offended just thinking about it. Pillar of salt, indeed!

The kids can’t read the Dictionary but they’ve been educated in loading and firing guns since they could walk. They’ve been taught to hate and judge others who aren’t like them since birth. They’ve been sedated by the Opiate of the Masses (do your own research on Oscar Wilde if you don’t know this one) since conception. They’ve been taught that to kill is fine, just not to murder. Ultimately, they’ve been allowed to re-define everything so as to pinpoint it within the perimeter of their own, narrow scope of life and the world as provided by their parents and religious leaders. Re-define it.

I guess if there are no definitive sources like a Dictionary around to set the record straight, the world begins to look entirely like Wikipedia… open to interpretation. There’s already too much of that going around, friends. Stop the madness.

Happy New Year!

Posted in daily musings, rants on January 2, 2010 by wfon

Ordinarily this time of year finds me in a frosty locale, bundled up against the elements, sipping the strongest whiskey possible just to keep warm, but also completely immersed in art and culture, in (as Markus likes to say) the Capitals of Europe. And travel, we have had our share, man (thank you Johnny Cash). These adventures started in 2000 in Aruba and have continued on to Paris, Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Munich, Berlin, St. Thomas, Venice, Madrid, Barcelona and Vienna. This year, however, warmer climes were calling. So, here I sit back in Kona, my second home for all intents and purposes, in a warm tradewind breeze looking out on the bluest ocean I have ever seen. Shorts and flip-flops are mandatory. So are the Mai Tais (see image above from the Kona Inn). Last evening, we rang in the New Year jetting between the Inn and Don the Beachcomber while kids from all over the island lined up along Alii Drive and set off their fireworks.

I’m not one for too much reflection and a person could write volumes about 2009 and then entire libraries about the first decade of the new millennium, good, bad and ugly… Truth is, it hardly feels like ten years since the trip to Aruba. I know, however, that if I sit and reflect it will certainly be a decade… and a hell of one. More importantly, though, seems to me the fact that in 2009 alone, we managed to encapsulate the entire decade in one twelve month period. All the misery and pain, triumph and joy, loss and reward that lies scattered across the ten years in between have reference points in 2009: personally, professionally, globally and historically. So, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year and close with a little reflection on my part for the year that was:

2009 was a year – when America made it’s greatest leap toward equality for all with the inauguration of Barack Obama (the rest will come) – it was a year of personal and professional success entirely tempered by personal and professional failure – it was a year of new love for some and the jettisoning of dead weight for others – it was a year when pretenders showed their true colors and disappeared up their own asses 🙂 It was a year when some people decided to go back into hiding. It was a year of reunion and new endeavours: It was the year that sprouted the Plant-Based Dietitian and pushed World Full of Nothing out of the nest. It was a year of burden and stress with nowhere near enough exaltation. It was the end of many long suffering and tiresome relationships and traditions and, ultimately it was a year that made me think of a Bob Marley lyric:

“From the darkness there must come out the light…”

I hope this coming year brings the light. There is no way we could all have come through the abyss of the last eight years without really feeling the pain but this too will pass… and the result will be emancipation. Thus spoke the Great Broccolini…

Let’s get busy living, ya’ll!

Kona, Hawaii, January 1, 2010